Pinellas Co. adds additional staff to help with grant applications for small businesses

Small business grants exceed 2,000 applicants
Posted at 3:33 PM, May 11, 2020

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Beginning Monday, an additional 27 Pinellas County staff members will be added to filter through grant applications to help small businesses.

The county was granted $170 million dollars from the federal CARES Act. Of that, $35 million will be allocated to provide financial assistance to Pinellas County businesses that qualify.

Businesses like Pacific Counter in St. Pete are hoping to get some of those grants.

Co-founder Tanner Loebel and his staff, like so many others, have had to readjust the way they operate since March.

"We did pivot. We did add some changes to our business, but it was more of the same of what we were already doing and aiming towards," Loebel said.

Loebel applied for the federal PPP funds, but he's also taking advantage of what Pinellas County is offering.

Officials opened the application process to businesses within the county on May 4. More than 2,000 applications filtered through the system by the end of the week.

Mike Meidel, Pinellas County Director of Economic Development, said the county has enough funds to help more than 6,000 businesses if they qualify. If they do, they will receive a check for $5,000 that will not have to be paid back.

"The $5,000 can be used for payroll, for benefits, for the rent, for the utilities. any business expense. The only requirement is that you cannot use it for something that is already covered by insurance or by another federal grant," Meidel said.

Meidel urges people to have the correct paperwork before they file.

"Thee W-9 has to exactly match the application form itself or they can't get a check," Meidel said.

Loebel said the process took all of 20 minutes and was easy to navigate.

He only wishes the same could be said for what brought him and his staff here in the first place.

Applications will be taken through June 1. If additional funding remains, Meidel said the county will look at branching out to nonprofits and work from home businesses.

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